Opening Day 2021 is in the books, and what an eventful day it was.
A group of MLB.com reporters gathered for a roundtable discussion on the good, the bad, the weird and the wacky -- and there was plenty to dissect.
Alyson Footer, moderator: Hello friends, and happy baseball season! Let’s talk about some of our general observations about what we saw on Opening Day. What stood out to you as the most interesting thing about the day as a whole?
Personally, my favorite moment was Miguel Cabrera beginning his pursuit of 500 homers with a homer, in the snow, which he thought was a double. So he slides into second, and then trots home. Miggy being Miggy.
Mike Petriello, MLB.com analyst: Which he then followed up with a diving defensive play! I am in for Miggy resurgence tour 2021.
Sarah Langs, MLB.com reporter/producer: I was about to say Miggy, too! That was just such a fun way to start it off -- both visually and storyline-wise. Maybe not the BIGGEST takeaway, but a fun one.
Anthony Castrovince, MLB.com reporter: Yeah, we can scrap all that talk about the 25-and-under talent in MLB and just talk about the 37-year-old future Hall of Famer sliding into second on a dinger.
Another big takeaway: The Phillies’ bullpen is ... good? Can that be?
Footer: What were your impressions of the Phillies’ bullpen-building efforts over the winter? Did they do enough?
Castrovince: I'm sure Philadelphia fans would have preferred they land Liam Hendriks, but you can't splurge on a single arm in a situation that requires an entire overhaul. Dave Dombrowski's bugaboo in Detroit was the bullpen, but, under the circumstances, I have no problem with his approach of potentially uncovering some undervalued assets.
It was interesting to see them summon Archie Bradley in a big spot in the seventh while committing to Héctor Neris as the initial closer ... despite his association with the 2020 Phillies bullpen. The 'pen threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings in a one-run win, and I believe that's 3 1/3 more scoreless innings than it threw all of last season. Instant progress!
Petriello: Overall, mostly, I liked just how many different kinds of baseball there were on Opening Day. You had the Rays winning a 1-0 game, and three extra-inning affairs, and also the Cardinals blitzing Luis Castillo in the first inning. And then … however you want to define the baseball-flavored entertainment that was Dodgers-Rockies and Rangers-Royals.
The Dodgers stranded 14 (!!) runners and still had the winning run at the plate in the ninth inning. Cody Bellinger hit a ball into the stands and it was not a home run. It was Peak Coors.
Langs: I love everything that you all said, and I’ll add -- just so many fun individual performances. Shane Bieber with 12 strikeouts, becoming the first modern pitcher with 12+ strikeouts on back-to-back Opening Days. Ke’Bryan Hayes’ homer! Gary Sánchez’s homer! Vlad Jr. with some classic high exit velocity. So many fun items to go through.
Footer: Including Pablo Sandoval’s homer! Castro, we are all looking forward to your annual Opening-Day-overreactions piece, and I'd like to put in a request now for Panda's 162-homer pace to make the cut.
Castrovince: Pablo Sandoval will still be hitting random home runs for random teams long after we are gone.
Footer: Here's how I keep track of who Panda's playing for -- he does something super cool, someone tweets about it, and then I know who he’s playing for.
Petriello: OK, but how's this for a guy who people won't know what team he's on: Julian Merryweather.
Merryweather is -- this is definitely not made up -- the 463rd-best pitcher in the big leagues right now. He pitched 19 pro innings over the past three seasons due to injuries. To 98% of baseball fans, he's a total unknown. So what does he do? Comes into Yankee Stadium to close down a 10th-inning lead and:
• Strikes out Aaron Hicks
• Strikes out Giancarlo Stanton
• Strikes out Gleyber Torres
If that guy can do that, well, I don't want to ever hear anything about the rising strikeout rate that doesn't start and end with "pitchers are insanely good and there are so many of them" ever again.
Castrovince: Amen. Hitting's hard.
Footer: As much as I loved Miggy's homer, I have to say the one I was most excited about was Ke'Bryan Hayes’ two-run shot in his first at-bat of the season. This kid is the real deal.
Langs: Yes!! Loved, loved to see it. Only the second Pirates rookie with a homer on Opening Day, and the youngest Pirates player with an Opening Day home run since Barry Bonds. The Pirates might not be great this year, but he will be, and I’m so glad that was on display in Game 1.
Petriello: Agree with all of that, but I'm putting up Gary Sánchez's homer too. Did anyone on earth need to have a positive Opening Day more than he did?
Castrovince: Nope. Some people may have forgotten that Sánchez still hits the ball insanely hard. He just has to, you know, hit it.
Footer: I sensed a feeling of relief today -- relief that Opening Day is here, and that we're seeing better days ahead. And, weirdly, it was a relief to see Fernando Tatis Jr. out on the field doing Tatis Jr. things. I feel like we've been waiting a long time for him to start dazzling again, when all we’ve been doing for months is talk about contracts.
Castrovince: That's where Tatis really goes to another level of just pure entertainment for me. The basepaths. It's a tough skill to tabulate or explain beyond stolen-base totals. But he just has incredible instincts and explosiveness. If he tagged up and scored from first on a pop-up to the catcher, I would only be mildly surprised.
Petriello: Also though, look at SD putting up eight runs while getting one hit combined from Machado and Tatis. I think people sleep on the rest of that lineup too much.
Footer: Let's conclude this conversation with everyone’s best guess as to which fan base is overreacting the most, based on Opening Day results. Can be good overreacting, or bad overreacting.
Castrovince: Without even looking at social media, I am going to guess Braves. I doubt they expected their offense to revolve around the Panda.
(They'll be fine.)
Footer: I'll go with the Reds. Eugenio Suárez’s debut at shortstop did not go well (two errors). And ace starter Luis Castillo gave up six runs in the first inning, and 10 overall (eight earned).
Langs: I’m just thinking of the boos in the background in the late innings in the Bronx today… re. Stanton, especially.
Petriello: I'm booing those boos. Booooo.
Langs: Exactly, Mike … Stanton will be fine. He’ll be crushing baseballs soon.
Castrovince: It was nice to hear boos, though.
Petriello: I'm seeing another replay of the Cody Bellinger play. What an insanely ridiculous thing to have happened. I love this stupid sport.
Langs: Baseball is the best!